House Panel Advances GOP Bill To Extend ACA’s High-Risk Coverage Pools
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced legislation (HR 1549) that would boost funding for the Affordable Care Act's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and keep the program open through 2013, The Hill reports (Baker, The Hill, 4/17).
PCIP was designed to help sick U.S. residents gain coverage ahead of January 2014, when the ACA's ban on denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions is set to take effect.
After the administration announced in February several cost-savings reforms intended to prevent the program from running out of money, HHS halted enrollment in the pools because there were only enough funds to cover current enrollees.
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health introduced HR 1549 after Obama failed to respond to a letter from House GOP leaders last month asking him to transfer funding from other ACA programs without congressional action.
The bill would shift about $4 billion from the ACA's Public Health and Prevention Fund to facilitate the extended period of enrollment in PCIP. The measure also would eliminate the ACA requirement that individuals be uninsured for at least six months before they can be eligible for coverage in PCIP (California Healthline, 4/17).
Legislation Angers Some GOP Members
The bill is the first time Republicans have attempted to amend the ACA instead of repeal it, and it has angered many GOP members, The Hill reports.
However, some Republicans are defending the bill. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said, "A minority of our conference feels that the only vote that should be taken against Obamacare is a repeal vote -- all or nothing, to kill it dead," adding, "I've always felt that ... if we see areas we can chip away at, that are the most egregious parts of the bill, we really should do that."
According to the The Hill, such high-risk pools are a "cornerstone" of the GOP plan to repeal and replace the ACA. House Republicans have said the pools should replace the requirement that insurers cover U.S. residents with pre-existing conditions (The Hill, 4/17).
Democrats Propose Alternative High-Risk Pool Funding Plan
Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and several other Democrats have countered the Republican proposal with a bill (HB 1578) that would provide funding to re-open enrollment through 2013 in the high-risk pools by raising cigarette taxes, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The Democrats' proposal was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees. Other sponsors of the bill include Reps. Lois Capps (Calif.), Gene Green (Texas), Doris Matsui (Calif.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.) and Henry Waxman (Calif.) (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.